From: Mr. Brent Fischer, Spiritual Formation Coordinator and Biblical Counselor
“…[He] works all things according to the counsel of His will…”
Ephesians 1:11 ESV
Classical and Quarantined
So adding to the constant changes of our new crazy Coronavirus world, we’ve started online-schooling here at Liberty. Meanwhile, we’re still a classical academy.
Here is where I would desperately like to tell you how those two things can go perfectly together. Better discussions? More work-time? Instead of grasping at straws, I’ll just be honest. I don’t know.
Just like I don't know how long exactly we'll be doing online classes, or how long this pandemic will last, or what this will do to our economy, or how many people will die, or a hundred other things. And frankly, no one else really knows either.
But God does.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29).
And that’s what we’re ultimately about at Liberty—teaching our kids about the “revealed things” of God, whether in His world or in His Word (cf. Ps 19).
God may not have revealed to us many “secret things” about how these strange days will unfold, but He has revealed that He “declares the end from the beginning” (Isa 46:10); He is “[working] all things according to the counseling of His will” (Eph 1:11); and “in [His] book were written, every one of...the days that were formed for [us], when as yet there was none of them” (Ps 139:16).
As David wrote, “All [our] times are in His hand” (Ps 31:15).
Including these ones.
So we can still trust Him. Because He is still sovereign. Even in quarantine.
That is what this post is about.
In the previous posts we looked at how God’s attributes are the silver-lining behind stormy clouds. Surging winds and waves provide an opportunity for us to draw our eyes to the sovereign One who can still them with a word (Mark 4:39). And as He calls the turbulent seas to “be still,” so He is calling us to “be still, and know that [He] is God” (Ps 46:10).
Today, I'd like to more fully define the doctrine of God's sovereignty. I’ll share how it is often like a Sour Patch Kids to many, and then explain why God’s sovereignty means we can have an unshakeable trust in Him...even when that means there's no more toilet paper on the shelves, or the kids are home from school, or we have to work from home, or we're suddenly out of work, or our investments have plummeted, or a family member just tested positive for COVID-19...
...or when we don’t know how classical and quarantine are to go together.
God's Sovereignty: His Absolute Right and Freedom to Control Everything
To say God is sovereign is, in one sense, simply to acknowledge that God is God. It is to grasp that which the unfettered mind of a child instantly sees: that if God is God, it means He is in complete control over all things at all times, no matter how big or small. One way or another, He is working “all things according to the council of His will” (Eph 1:11), and “all things are [His] servants” (Ps 119:91).
Consequently—the point the minds of "grown-ups" clouded with pride cannot, or rather, will not see—nothing and no one else besides God is in control. He cannot be bribed, bought, or bartered with. Ultimately, God controls all and nothing controls Him.
The Psalmist puts it plainly, "Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases." (Ps 115:3). Or, to translate this in the TSV (Teen-Speak Version), "God does whatever He wants."
Note, the point is not merely that God can do all He wants, but that God does do all He wants. He is not merely powerful enough to do so, He has the absolute right to do so. And He is completely free to exercise that right.
Even if that means allowing a pandemic to strike the globe, “[God] forms light and creates darkness, [He] makes well-being and creates calamity, [He] [is] the Lord, who does all these things (Isa 45:7). Whether we think it is good or bad, right or wrong, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps 24:1; cf. Matt 20:15); and has not the Potter all rights to do what He wills with His clay (Rom 9:21)? Or as Job says it, “shall we receive good from the hand of the Lord and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
The sovereignty of God means God can do whatever He wants with His clay—even if that means taking almost everything away from us to test us like Job. He does us no wrong.
His hands are never tied by what we think He can or cannot do. His arm is never shortened. God cannot be quarantined. As the great Babylonion king Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “[The Most High] does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan 4:35).
In other words, God has complete and unfettered control over every knob and every switch on the control board of the universe. He is sovereign over every virus and every vaccine, over every first breath and every last breath, over every atom of every molecule, and, yes, even over every last roll of toilet paper. Our God is sovereign over it all (cf. Ps 103:19).
This means that, in the final analysis, God controls the Coronavirus. And everything related to it. COVID-19 is no independent variable to Him. It does His bidding to accomplish His sovereign purposes as sure as the wind and waves obey His voice.
So remember friends, even when the storm is raging, He is still reigning (Ps 93:1).
A “Sour Patch” Doctrine
This is a hard truth for many to swallow. In fact, it is terrifying for many...especially for those in rebellion against God (cf. Matt 10:28). And so people will rage more against the sovereignty of God than any other doctrine.
As Spurgeon once said, “Men will allow God to be anywhere but on His throne.”
Why? Because if God's on the throne, then He doesn’t have to answer to us for anything (cf. Job 38:3). If He’s on the throne, then He can give and He can take away, and blessed be His name (Job 1:21). If He’s on the throne, then we, and all we hold dear, are at His mercy (Rom 9:18).
But the sovereignty of God is often like a “Sour Patch Kids” gummy. First it’s sour, but then it’s sweet. While the sovereignty of God may be the most disconcerting doctrine to others, there is nothing more sweet and comforting to God’s children.
For them, it means sovereign love, sovereign mercy, sovereign grace, sovereign protection and deliverance. For them, it means no one can pluck them from their Father’s hand (John 20:28). It means the compassion and love of their Father is from everlasting to everlasting (Ps 103). It means He not only works all things according to the counsel of His will, but for their good (Rom 8:28). And though they may not always be able to trace His hand, it means they can always trust His heart.
But be sure of it, God is on the throne, whether men like it or not. He is no Genie in Aladdin's lamp chained to three wishes. Subject to none, compelled by none, and contingent upon none, the sovereignty of God means God does whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases, however He pleases, to whomever He pleases, only as He pleases, always, everywhere, and forever.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:34-36).
But that doesn’t mean trusting Him is always easy.
Trusting God in Quarantine
It is easy to acknowledge God's sovereignty in the good times, but harder when we or a loved one (or an entire nation of loved ones for that matter) is suffering.
But, again, it’s precisely when it’s hardest that we need to trust God most. Only then will we most experience God’s complete trustworthiness.
Like a little girl who has to jump off a precipice, it’s precisely then that she needs to know how strong her father is who stands below with his arms open to catch her. And when she leaps into the air, it’s not too much longer after she experiences that strength.
The same is true with our heavenly Father. When we feel we are falling, He is inviting us to fall on Him, and only then we will truly see how “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut 32:27).
But it’s still good to know how strong those arms are beforehand, and how it is, specifically, you can aim to fall on them.
So here are four clarifications to consider when trusting God in the various trials the Coronavirus might be causing you or loved ones:
- Just because God is sovereign, does not mean we ought to be "tearless trusters." Remember, Jesus wept over Lazarus' death, which he could've prevented from happening altogether (John 11:35)! Likewise, we are called to "weep with those who weep" (Rom 12:15), and cast all our anxieties on our Lord because He cares for us (1 Pet 5:7).
So while these are God-ordained times, that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be comfortable or easy times.
2. Trusting God doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take advantage of “means of grace” or “common grace.” Yes, God is sovereign. But He’s sovereign over the means as well as the ends. He ordains people to be saved by the gospel, and He ordains that they be saved through people preaching it (cf. Rom 10:14-15). So God is ultimately our sovereign deliverer in the midst of the “deadly pestilence,” but He’s also given us healthcare professionals, and hospitals, and common sense, and soap. We ought to use them.
3. Likewise, just because God is sovereign, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray! Often (I’m tempted to say nearly always), God achieves His sovereign purposes through the prayers of His saints. The cries of His children are what move the mighty arm of God. So there is nothing wrong with praying that God would intervene and end this crazy period we’re living in, as well as that He would deliver us from the “deadly pestilence” (Ps 91:3). That and a hundred other prayers.
And even if God doesn’t answer our prayers (or as we would like), remember Jesus—
though he knew his assignment from the Father to go to the cross—he still prayed three
times in blood-sweat agony that He would remove the cup from him (Matt 26:36-45;
4. Finally, seriously consider: at the end of the day, if God is not to be trusted in the most difficult times, then who or what is? If God is not in control of the Coronavirus, then what is, and how could we possibly trust God to stop it? As Peter once boldly said, "To whom else shall we go?" (John 6:68).
It is a true statement worth remembering, “If we cannot trust Him in all, we cannot trust Him at all.”
There may be no vaccine for the Coronavirus (yet). But lift your eyes friend, the Coronavirus has no vaccine against God’s sovereign decree. Let us be less aware of the storm outside and more aware of He who is in the boat—indeed, on the throne!
Though God is using this pandemic for a time to achieve His sovereign purposes—let us “be still and know,” just as He commands the raging seas, our God commands every inch of this spreading virus. And He has already ordained, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11).
We can trust our sovereign God, even in quarantine.
May God bless you and keep you, and allow you to trust Him even when plague comes near your door (Ps 91:9-10).